WHAT SCRIPTURAL ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ME FOR THE NEW YEAR?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Welcome to 2015! In our first Bible Q&A for this new year, we would be honored to give you some spiritual counsel.
Every New Year’s, it is common for people to make resolutions—something they want to accomplish in the next 365 days. It may be quitting a bad habit, starting a good routine, finishing an education, getting a job promotion, purchasing a new home, et cetera. At this time every year, we stand before a fresh slate—a year not yet tainted by our mistakes, a year to begin again, to start fresh, to leave behind a year that could have been better. We want to briefly look at the new year from four perspectives, verses that can orient us into God’s direction for our lives for the coming 12 months.
THE PAST IS PASSED, AND THE IGNORANCE IS LESS
We read in Titus 3:1-7: “ Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,  To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.  For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;  Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
There was a time when we Christians were foolish—dead in our trespasses and sins, we believed that we had to work our way to heaven, to make up for all the wrong we had done. We were doing whatever we wanted, not what Father God wanted; He did not want reformation, He wanted regeneration. He did not want dead people doing dead works, He wanted living people doing works that were literally alive with His life! It is when we heard Paul’s Gospel—Jesus Christ’s death for our sins, His sinless blood atoning for them, His burial to put away our sins, and His resurrection to give us a brand new life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—that we came to the end of our “goodness,” and we trusted it for our right standing before God. That new life is ours in Christ, now and forever: that old identity in Adam is gone forever (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Mistakes are necessary in this fallen world, and thus, we cannot escape them. We should not “live in the past,” for we cannot change the past. What we can do is learn from the past, act in the present, and then change the future. We are all one year older, and hopefully, one year wiser. Once, we were more ignorant of the Bible; we all still have much more growing to do! Saints, now, we have a fuller understanding of how God’s grace operates in us and how we operate in Him. We need to let last year’s mistakes go. Those were sins that Jesus Christ took care of 2,000 years ago; by faith, we need to leave them under His shed blood and quit dredging up something God put away by the sacrifice of Himself. “If only I did this” and “If only I did that” will haunt you if you do not send that guilt to Calvary’s cross!
NOW MORE SKILLFUL IN THE WORD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Whether being a new Christian who just believed the Gospel of Grace, or being a Christian who just came to understand the Bible (dispensational Bible study), we should have a fuller understanding of God’s will for us. We should have learned more verses to apply to various situations in life; this year, we have more verses in mind than we had the previous year. The Bible says that we are to walk in Christ according to the spiritual light we have. This is the key to learning from our mistakes: we should not lapse back into the ignorance we once had.
The Ephesians were once lost, dead in their trespasses and sins, enemies of God, and on their way to eternal hellfire (Ephesians 2:1-3). Then, the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel of God’s Grace to them, and they trusted it for their eternal salvation. They gave up their religious works and their pagan ideas, and they relied exclusively on the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). They, by faith in that Gospel message, embraced God’s grace, what He can do for them through Calvary’s cross, because they can do nothing for Him (Ephesians 2:4-9). Ephesians 2:10 says that Christians are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that [they] should walk in them.” After salvation unto justification, God wants to work in Christians—a Christian is to then walk in that new identity in Christ. Whether you have just trusted Christ for forgiveness of sins and a home in heaven, or you have been saved for many years, you should be more aware of your identity in Christ than you were when you were first saved. The eternal life you have received in Christ, it is now to live itself out in and through you. It all starts when you study and believe sound Bible doctrine.
In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul wrote to these Christians: “ For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:  (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.  But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.  Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;…”
Despite 2,000 years of Bible schools and seminaries, 2,000 years of a completed Bible canon, 2,000 years of Bible reading in churches, several decades of “Christian” television and radio, and just over a decade of widespread use of “Christian” websites, how sad that Bible ignorance is still quite extensive (it is as if God never gave His Word to start with!).
Frankly, the Church the Body of Christ needs to wake up! Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Paul, loosely quoting Isaiah 60:1, reminded us that the spiritual ignorance that gripped Israel in Isaiah’s day seized Christians in his day—and it still grips Christians 20 centuries later. Feel-good sermons, enjoyable “worship” services, and rites, rituals, and ceremonies will NOT solve this problem—they exacerbate it! If we want to be godly spouses, godly parents, godly children, godly employers, and godly employees—Ephesians 5:21–6:9 and Colossians 3:17–4:2—it all starts by learning who God has made us in Christ. We must daily renew our minds, reading and studying God’s Word every day, “letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Dispensational Bible study allows us to understand just what Bible doctrine God wants us to believe and apply to life, and then our lives will be filled with His Word and His life!
Yes, the Christian life is a growth process: even the Apostle Paul, 30-plus years after he trusted Christ, confessed that he was still trying to grasp why Jesus Christ had saved him. Philippians chapter 3 says: “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.  Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.  Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
If we trusted Christ 30 years ago, we should have more experience in the Scriptures than someone saved just a few days or weeks ago. God expects us Christians to grow spiritually, to be less confused about the Bible as the years pass, to be more aware of His Word’s doctrines, to better grasp how we fit into His purpose and plan for heaven and earth. We must be willing to abandon information we heard in denominational churches all of our lives, and come to see God’s Word for the plain and clear book that it is. We see that God wants us to follow the pattern, Paul’s life and ministry, in order to bring Him glory. That sound Bible doctrine that God committed to Paul the Apostle is the key to having Jesus Christ live His life in and through us. Only Jesus Christ can live His life, remember!
REMEMBER TO WALK BY FAITH, AND NOT BY SIGHT
As the apostasy, the departure from God’s Word rightly divided, becomes more pronounced in the professing church (2 Timothy 4:3-4), we need to remember not to be distracted from God’s words to us. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is believing what God says to us (Romans 10:17). We should not look at circumstances, astronomical phenomena, weather patterns, and so on, and try to “read God’s will for us.” We have no interest in “discerning God’s attitude toward us” by looking at our health, our romantic life, our financial state, and so on. We should not look to church tradition and human wisdom to “find God’s will for our lives”—that is not faith, that it is doubt, for God’s Word is found only in the Holy Bible (not in human intuition or religious tradition).
We must go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and then take a stand in these verses. Once we understand our identity in Christ, we can then walk in that identity. Unlike the average church member and preacher, we do not have to grope in darkness, wandering around in ignorance, wondering what God wants to tell us and what He wants us to do. Furthermore, we do not have to fear the trials, troubles, and heartaches the new year will bring. Paul’s epistles remind us that no matter what happens to us, Father God has provisions for us in Christ that will see us through the entire year. To have that victory be brought into life, we have to simply rely on His words to us through Paul rather than struggling on our own.
FULFILLING GOD’S WILL TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT IS RIGHT
God’s will for us is two-fold: salvation from our sins and salvation from doctrinal error. “[God] will have all men to be saved…” (1 Timothy 2:4a). Do you want this New Year to count for God’s glory? First, you need to get saved from your sins and the eternal hellfire all sinners deserve! You need to become a Christian by trusting in and relying on Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That is only part of God’s will for you, for 1 Timothy 2:4b continues, “[God] will have all men… to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Now, God’s will for your Christian life is daily, personal Bible study to renew your mind, so your faith in those verses can cause God to work in your life—again, it will be His life, thus making you “perfect [spiritually mature], throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The phrase “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5) urges us to buy back the time Satan has robbed from God (time created for God’s glory). By faith, we need to make that time glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by applying His Word, particularly Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, to our lives. This is grace living, God’s grace so filling our hearts that it fills our lives. It is Jesus Christ living out His Word in and through us, that the printed Bible page become a life manifested in a human body, our bodies, that we be the Body of Christ in practice!
“ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
You can download our free “One-Year Bible Reading Schedule.” Also, you can sign-up for our free daily grace Bible email devotionals “333 Words of Grace.” Lastly, you can direct your Bible questions to “For What Saith the Scriptures?” Have a good year in Christ!